Winnipeg’s mayor hopes the province grants him three key wishes in its budget.
On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Bowman went public with his wish list. He wants the province to:
— Officially commit to a tri-government Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program request to fund the first two phases of the three-phase, $1.8-billion north end sewage treatment plant upgrade;
— Leave $204 million of potential federal infrastructure funding earmarked for Winnipeg Transit in place and stop calling for that cash to be diverted to support "green" projects throughout Manitoba.
— Continue to provide $273 million of total provincial operating and capital funds for Winnipeg this year, instead of making cuts.
Bowman said the sewage funding is critically important to protect the environment and ensure the plant has the capacity to treat waste for new developments in and around Winnipeg.
"This is an incredibly important project for all those who care about the health of our rivers and our lakes, as well as the continued growth and development in the city of Winnipeg and the surrounding capital region… We have been waiting far too long for the province to confirm their full support for the project," he said.
In October 2019, the city officially requested $321 million from Ottawa and $268 million from Broadway to support the $909-million tab for the first two phases of the sewage upgrades.
The project’s third phase would follow that work and reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen released from the plant, which promote algae growth on Lake Winnipeg.
The province has refuted claims that it’s to blame for holding up the sewage upgrades because it called for some of the work to be done through a private-public partnership. The two governments have not come to an agreement on that specific request.
Bowman said the transit cash is also a key priority, since the city needs as much funding as possible to support a Transit master plan that’s currently under review by council. Early estimates predict that plan could cost up to $1.5 billion over the next 25 years.
The mayor said the strategy is key to ensuring Winnipeggers have efficient and sustainable transit.
"As the city continues to grow to a million people, future (election) campaigns… are going to be less about potholes, they’re going to be about gridlock, unless we get really serious and get the funding (to enhance) public transportation," said Bowman.
If the feds, province and city agree to a funding deal, the infrastructure transit cash could trigger a combined $534 million for Winnipeg Transit enhancements, such as electric buses and rapid transit.
The province will deliver its budget Wednesday afternoon.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.